CONCERNING THE PARTICULARS OF THE TRAIT OF CLEANLINESS
THE FACTORS which comprise Cleanliness are very numerous, being all of the factors which comprise the 365 negative commandments. For as I have already stated, the objective of this trait is to be clean of all of the forms of sin. However, though the evil inclination causes a man to commit all kinds of sins, there are some which a person's nature renders more desirable to him, and, consequently, provides him with more rationalizations for. He therefore requires in relation to them additional strengthening to vanquish his evil inclination and be clean of sin. In this connection our Sages of blessed memory have said (Chagigah l lb), "There is within a person a desire and a longing for theft and illicit relations." Although we see that most people are not manifest thieves in the sense of openly confiscating their neighbors' belongings and depositing them among their own possessions, most of them get the taste of theft in the course of their business dealings by allowing themselves to gain through their neighbors' loss, saying, "Business is different."
Many prohibitions, however, were stated in regard to theft: "Do not steal," "Do not rob," "Do not oppress," "And you shall not deny," "And a man should not speak falsely against his neighbor," "A man should not deceive his brother," "Do not push back your neighbor's boundary." These varied laws of theft take in many of the most common types of transactions, in relation to all of which there are many prohibitions. For it is not the overt, acknowledged deed of oppression or theft alone which is forbidden; but anything which would lead to such a deed and bring it about is included in the prohibition. Concerning this our Sages of blessed memory said (Sanhedrin 8 la), "`And he did not pollute his neighbor's wife' (Ezekiel 18:15) - he did not infringe upon his neighbor's occupation." R. Yehudah forbade a storekeeper to distribute roasted grain and nuts to children to accustom them to come to him; the other Sages permitted it only because his competitor could do the same (Bava Metzia 60a). Our Sages of blessed memory have also said (Bava Bathra 88b), "Stealing from a person is worse than stealing from God, for concerning the first, the fact of one's being a sinner is stated before that of his having committed a wrong ..." They also exempted hired workers from the blessing over bread and from the latter blessings of Grace. And even in the case of the Shema they required them to leave off working only for the recitation of the first section (Berachoth 16b). How obvious is it, then, that a day-laborer has no right to interrupt the work assigned to him for mundane considerations, and that if he does, he is a thief. Abba Chilkiyah did not even return the greeting of Scholars so that he would not interrupt the work he was doing for his neighbor (Ta'anith 23b). And our father Jacob, may Peace be upon him, explicitly stated (Genesis 31:40), "In the daytime I was consumed by drought and in the evening by frost, and my sleep fled from my eyes." What, then, will those say who occupy themselves with their pleasures and leave off working, or those who during their working-time engage in their own affairs for personal gain?
In fine, if one is hired by his neighbor for any kind of labor, all of his hours are sold to his employer for the day. As our Sages of blessed memory say (Bava Metzia 56b), "Hiring oneself out is equivalent to selling oneself for the day." Any utilization of these hours for his personal benefit in any manner whatsoever is gross theft, and if his employer does not forgive him, he is not forgiven. As our Teachers of blessed memory have said (Yoma 85b), "The Day of Atonement does not atone for a man's sins against his neighbor until he pacifies him." What is more, even if one performs a mitzvah during his working-time, he is not credited with righteousness, but charged with a transgression. A transgression cannot be a mitzvah. It is written (Isaiah 61:8), "I hate theft in a burnt-offering." Along the same lines our Sages of blessed memory have said (Bava Kamma 94a), "One who steals a measure of wheat, grinds it, bakes it and pronounces a blessing over it, is not blessing, but abusing, as it is written (Psalms 10:3), `And the thief who blesses, abuses God.' " Similarly it is said, "Woe unto him whose defense attorney becomes his prosecutor." This is analogous to what our Sages say (Yerushalmi Sukkah 3.1) concerning a stolen lulav. Stealing an object is stealing, and stealing time is stealing. As with a stolen object that is used for a mitzvah, so with stolen time that is similarly used, one's defense attorney becomes his prosecutor.
The Holy One Blessed be He desires only honesty, as it is said (Psalms 31:24), "God protects the honest ones," and (Isaiah 26:2), "Open ye doors so that there may enter a righteous nation, a keeper of trusts," and (Psalms 101:6), "My eyes are to the trusted men of the earth, that they may sit with me," and (Jeremiah 5:3), "Are Your eyes not to faithfulness?" Even Job said about himself (Job 31:7), "Did my steps deviate from the path? Did my eyes follow my heart? Did anything adhere to my palm?" Regard the beauty of this comparison in which concealed theft is likened to a thing which sticks to a person's hand. Though he had no original intention of taking it, the fact remains that it is in his hand. Here, too, though a man does not actually go out and steal, it is difficult for his hands to be entirely clean of theft, for the eyes instead of being ruled by the heart so that they do not find pleasing to them what belongs to others, pull the heart after them to seek rationalizations for the acquisition of what seems beautiful and desirable to them. Job tells us, in effect, that he did not conduct himself in this manner, that his heart did not follow his eyes, and that, therefore, nothing stuck to his palm.
Consider the question of deceit. How easy it is for a person to deceive himself and fall prey to sin. On the surface it seems proper to him to attempt to make his wares attractive to people and to profit by his efforts, as it does to use "sales talk" on the prospective purchaser to render him more receptive; especially so in the face of such popular encomiums as "The quick man profits" (Pesachim 506) and "The hand of the diligent prospers" (Proverbs 10:4). But if he does not analyze and weigh his actions carefully, he will bring forth thorns instead of wheat, for he will transgress and fall victim to the sin of deceit about which we have been warned, (Leviticus 25:17), "Let not a man deceive his fellow." Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Chullin 94a) that it is forbidden also to fool a non-Jew. It is written (Zephaniah 3:13), "The remnant of Israel will not do iniquity and they will not speak falsehood, and a deceiving tongue will not be found in their mouths." Our Sages have said (Bava Metzia 60a), "It is forbidden to paint old vessels to give them the appearance of new ones. It is forbidden to mix the fruits of one field with those of another, though the latter be just as fresh as the first, and though they be worth a dinar and a tresis per measure, and the combination be sold for only a dinar per measure." "All who do these, all doers of wrong" (Deuteronomy 25:16). Five designations have been applied to them: "wrong," "hateful," "abominable," "despised," "detested." (Sijra 19.35). Our Sages of blessed memory have further stated (Bava Kamma 119a), "If one steals even the worth of a prutah from his neighbor, it is as if he takes his soul from him." This statement reveals to us the severity of this sin even where a trifling amount is involved. And they said again (Ta'anith 7b), "The rains are held back only because of the sin of theft," and again, (Vayikra Rabbah 33.3), "in a basketful of sins, which is the most incriminating?- theft." The doom of the generation of the flood was sealed only because of the sin of theft (Sanhedrin 108a).
If you ask yourself, "How is it possible for us in our dealings not to attempt to favorably incline the prospective buyer towards the object to be sold and its worth?" know that there is a great distinction to be made. Whatever effort is made to show the purchaser the true worth and beauty of the object is fitting and proper, but whatever is done to conceal its imperfections constitutes deceit and is forbidden. This is an elemental principle in business honesty. And this goes without saying in respect to malpractice in the area of weights and measures, in relation to which it is explicitly written (Deuteronomy 25:16) : "The abomination of the Lord, your God, are all who do these." Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Bava Bathra 88b), "The punishment for dishonest weights and measures is more severe than that for illicit relations ..." (Ibid. a), and "The wholesale merchant must clean his measures once in thirty days." Why must this be done? So that the purchasers not unknowingly get less than what they paid for and the merchant not be punished.
What we have said, naturally applies to the sin of taking interest, which is as great a sin as denying the God of Israel, God forbid (Bava Metzia 71a). Our Sages of blessed memory said (Shemoth Rabbah 31.6) in relation to the verse (Ezekiel 18:13), "He gave with usury and took interest, and shall he live? He shall not live," that he who takes interest will not experience the revival of the dead, for he and his dust are abominable and detestable in the eyes of God. I see no need to expatiate on this sin, for its fearful nature is felt by every Jew.
In fine, just as the desire for acquisition is great, so are there many pitfalls which it presents; and for a person to be completely Clean of them, there must be great scrutiny and much analysis on his part. If he does cleanse himself of this desire, let him know that he has reached a very high level of achievement; for there are many who achieve saintliness in many areas, but who cannot achieve perfection in despising dishonest gain. As Tzofar the Naamasite said to Job (Job 11:14), "If there is wickedness in your hand put it far from yourself, and do not permit wrong to dwell in your tents; for then you will lift up your face from imperfection and you will be strong and not fear."
I have spoken thus far of the particulars of one of the mitzvoth. There is no question that each and every mitzvah lends itself to such analysis. I am discussing only those, however, which most people are generally remiss in.
We shall now consider the sin of illicit relations, which is also included among the most severe sins, being second only to theft, as revealed in the statement of our Sages of blessed memory (Bava Bathra 165a), "The majority succumb to the sin of theft, a minority to that of illicit relations." One who desires to be completely clean of this sin also requires no little effort, for its prohibition takes in not only the act itself, but anything that approaches it, as Scripture clearly states (Leviticus 18:6), "Do not come near to uncover nakedness." And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Shemoth Rabbah 16:2), "The Holy One Blessed be He said, `Do not say, "Since I may not live with a woman, I will hold her and be free of sin, I will embrace her and be free of sin; or I will kiss her and be free of sin." ' The Holy One Blessed be He said, `Just as when a Nazarite takes a vow not to drink wine, he is forbidden to eat grapes or raisins or drink grape juice, or partake of anything, for that matter, which comes from the grapevine, so is it forbidden to touch any woman but your own wife; and anyone who does touch a woman other than his wife brings death to himself.' " See how wonderful these words are! The prohibition in the case of illicit relations is likened to that in the case of a Nazarite, where, even though the essence of the prohibition involves only the drinking of wine, the Torah forbids to him anything which has some connection with wine. Through what it says concerning a Nazarite, the Torah is teaching the Sages hjw to make "a fence around the Torah" by way of implementing the authority vested in them to reinforce the Torah's rulings. Using the case of the Nazarite as a prototype, the Torah is instructing the Sages to proscribe, because of a basic prohibition, anything that is similar to it. To reveal God's will in the matter, the Torah did in relation to the mitzvah of the Nazarite what it authorized the Sages to do in relation to all the other mitzvoth, namely, to forbid anything which approaches the nature of what is proscribed, by deducing what is not stated from what is stated. By applying this principle to the area of illicit relations, the Sages prohibited anything partaking of the nature of fornication or approaching it, regardless of the particular avenue of approach, whether that of deed, or sight, or speech, or hearing, or even thought.
I will now substantiate what has been said by referring to the words of our Sages of blessed memory
Deed : Namely touching or embracing and the like. This has already been considered in the aforementioned statement and there is no need to dwell upon it.
Sight : Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Berachoth 61a), " ` Hand to hand, the evil will not be cleansed' (Proverbs 11:21) - one who counts coins from his hand to hers in order to gaze at her will not be cleansed from the judgment of Gehinnom." And again (Shabbath 64a), "Why did the Jews of that generation require atonement?- because they fed their eyes on impurity." R. Shesheth said (Berachoth 24a), "Why did Scripture (Numbers 31:50) enumerate the outer ornaments together with the inner ones?- to teach us that if one gazes at a woman's little finger, it is as if he gazed at her impurity." And again (Avodah Zarah 20a), " `And keep yourself from every evil thing' (Deuteronomy 23:10) - a man should not eye a beautiful woman, even if she is unmarried, and a married woman, even if she is ugly."
Speech : It is explicitly stated (Avoth 1.5), "One who converses at length with a woman draws evil upon himself."
Hearing : (Berachoth 24a), "A woman's singing is impurity."
Concerning the "fornication of the mouth and the ear," that is, speaking obscenities or listening to them, our Sages "screamed like cranes" (Yerushalmi Terumoth 1.4), " `Let there not be seen within you a thing of nakedness' (Deuteronomy 23:15) -nakedness of speech, the uttering of obscenities." And (Shabbath 33a), "Because of the sin of obscene speech, troubles renew themselves and the youths of Israel die, God forbid." And (Ibid.), "If one sullies his mouth, Gehinnom is deepened for him." And (Ibid.), "Everyone knows why a bride goes to the wedding canopy, but anyone who speaks obscenely concerning it, even a decree of seventy good years is converted to evil." And (Chagigah 5b), "Even a casual conversation between a man and his wife is held up to him at the time of Judgment." And concerning listening to obscenities they said (Shabbath 33a),` `Even one who listens and remains still, as it is said (Proverbs 22:14), `He who has incurred God's wrath, shall fall therein.' " We see, then, that all of one's faculties must be Clean of fornication and of anything related to it.
If one would gain your ear and tell you that the Sages said what they did in relation to obscene speech only to frighten one and to draw him far from sin, and that their words apply only to hot-blooded individuals who, by speaking obscenities, would be aroused to lust, but not to those who air them only in jest, in which case there is nothing whatever to fear- tell him that his words are those of the evil inclination; for the Sages have adduced an explicit verse in support of their statements (Isaiah 9:16): "Therefore God will not rejoice over their youths ... for they are all flatterers and speakers of evil, and every mouth utters obscentities." This verse mentions neither idol worship, nor illicit relations, nor murder, but flattery and slander and obscene utterance, all sins of the mouth in its capacity of speech; and it is because of these sins that the decree went forth, "Therefore God will not rejoice over their youths, and will not be merciful to their orphans and widows ..." The truth, then, is as our Teachers of blessed memory have it, that the uttering of obscenities is the very "nakedness" of the faculty of speech and was prohibited as an aspect of fornication along with all other such aspects, which, although outside the realm of the act of illicit relations itself (as indicated by their not being subject to the punishment of "cutting off" or to the death penalty), are nonetheless prohibited in themselves; this aside from the fact that they also conduce to and bring about the principally proscribed act itself, as in the case of the Nazarite in the Midrash referred to above. Thought: Our Sages of blessed memory have already said in the beginning of our Baraitha (Avodah Zarah 20b), " `And keep yourself from every evil thing' (Deuteronomy 23:10)-a man should not think obscene thoughts in the daytime ... " And (Yoma 29a), "The thoughts behind the sin are worse than the sin itself." And Scripture explicitly states (Proverbs 15:26), "Evil thoughts are the abomination of God."
We have spoken thus far of two severe types of sin whose various forms are likely be stumbling blocks both because of the innumerability of these forms and because of the strong lustful inclination of a person's heart in relation to them.
The sin which comes third after theft and illicit relations in respect to desire is that of forbidden foods - whether thos; that are ritually unclean, or an admixture containing them, or a combination of meat and milk, or suet, or blood, or food cooked by gentiles, or the utensils of gentiles, or the wine used in ther libations, or their drinking-wine. Cleanliness in relation to all of these requires great scrutiny and self-strengthening because there is a lust in the heart for good foods and because one must sometimes suffer a monetary loss as a result of admixtures and the like. The prohibitions concerning forbidden foods also involve many details, as is reflected in all of the commonly known laws that are treated in the Halachic writings. One who is lenient in relation to these laws when he has been instructed to be stringent is destroying his soul. As is stated in the Sifra (Shemini), " `Do not sully yourselves with them, becoming unclean with them' (Leviticus 11:43) - if you sully yourselves with them, you will, in the end, partake of their uncleanliness." Forbidden foods carry uncleanliness itself into a person's heart and soul until the holiness of the Presence Blessed be He departs and withdraws from him, as is also stated in the Talmud ( Yoma 39a), " `...becoming unclean with them' - do not read `becoming unclean with them,' but `becoming dull with them.' " For sin dulls a man's heart in that it causes to depart from him true knowledge and the spirit of wisdom that the Holy One Blessed be He gives to the Saints (as it is said [Proverbs 2:6], "For God gives wisdom"), and he remains beastly and earthy, immersed in the grossness of this world. Forbidden foods are worse in this respect than all other prohibitions, for they enter into a person's body and become flesh of his flesh. In order to instruct us that this applies not only to unclean beasts or to earth creatures, but also to those animals, which, though in the "clean" category, are ritually unclean, Scripture tells us (Leviticus 11:47), "To distinguish between the unclean and the clean," upon which our Teachers of blessed memory comment (Sifra ad loc.), "There is no need to point up the distinction between an ass and a cow. What, then, is the meaning of `between the unclean and the clean'? - between what is unclean to you and what is clean to you; between the cutting of most of the windpipe and the cutting of half. And what is the difference between most and half ? - a hairs-breadth." The reason that they concluded in this manner ("And what is the difference between `most' ... ") is to show how amazing the power of the mitzvoth is, that a hair's-breadth constitutes the difference between uncleanliness and cleanliness itself.
Anyone possessed of sense will regard forbidden food as poison, or as food with which some poison has become mixed. Would anyone allow himself to partake of such food? If there were any room for suspicion or even the slightest doubt, he would certainly not permit himself to eat of it; and if he did, he would be regarded as an absolute fool. Forbidden food, as we have explained, is poison itself to the heart and soul. Who, then, possessing any intelligence, would allow himself to eat food about whose permissibility there is some question? Concerning this it is said (Proverbs 23:2), "And put a knife to your throat if you have any sense."
We shall now discuss the common sins which grow out of the relationships between men and their association in groups. Among these are: verbal oppression, shaming, giving misleading advice, tale-bearing, hating, taking revenge, taking oaths, lying, and desecrating the Name. Who can say, "I am Clean of them; I am pure of any fault in respect to them"? Their various aspects are so numerous and subtle that Watchfulness in relation to them is extremely burdensome.
Included in the sin of verbal oppression is shaming one's neighbor by words in private; much more so, shaming him thus in public or doing something to him which causes him to be ashamed in public. As stated in Perek Hazahav (Bava Metzia 58b), "If he has repented, one should not say to him, `Remember your former deeds ...' If he is beset by sickness, one should not say to him as was said to Job by his friends (Job 4:7), `Remember, which clean man is destroyed ... ? ' If donkey-drivers ask grain of him, let him not say to them, `Go to so and so, for he sells grain, ' knowing full well that he never sold grain in his whole life." Our Sages of blessed memory have stated (Bava Metzia 58b), "Verbal oppression is worse than monetary oppression [deceit] ..." This is especially true as regards shaming one in public, for we were explicitly taught (Avoth 3.11), "One who shames his neighbor in public has no share in the World to Come." R. Chisda said (Bava Metzia 59a), "All of the gates of prayer were closed except those through which pass the cries of those who have been oppressed by words." And R. Eleazar said (Ibid.), "The Holy One Blessed be He exacts payment through a messenger for every sin, except that of verbal oppression." Our Sages said (Ibid.), "There are three sins which the curtain does not block out." One of those mentioned is the sin of verbal oppression. Even in the case of the observance of mitzvoth, in relation to which Scripture tells us (Leviticus 19:17), "But you shall rebuke your friend, " our Sages of blessed memory say (Arachin 16b), "i would think that this applies even to the extent of causing his face to change color; therefore, we are told immediately afterwards, `But do not bear a sin because of it.' " All of these statements reveal to us how far the warning against the sin of verbal oppression branches out and how severe its punishment is.
Concerning the giving of misleading advice we learned in Torath Kohanim (Leviticus 19:14), " `And do not place a stumbling block before a blind man'- before one who is blind to something. If you are asked whether someone's daughter may marry a Kohen, do not answer affirmatively if you know the opposite to be the case. If someone asks you for advice, do not give advice which is not suitable for him ... And do not say to him, `Sell your field and buy an ass,' by way attempting to gain possession of the field for yourself. You might say to yourself, `I am giving him a good piece of advice,' but your heart knows the truth, as it is stated (Ibid), `And fear your God."'
We see, then, that when one is approached for advice, his counsel, whether there is a possibility of his being personally affected by it or not, must be in accordance with pure, clear truth. Observe that the Torah has penetrated into the very recesses of the deceiver's mind, for we are speaking here not of coarse men, who openly give advice that is obviously malicious, but of those who are skilled in evil, whose advice, on the surface, seems truly to be to their friend's interest, but which, in reality, is not for his good, but to his detriment and for their own benefit. It is in this connection that we were told, "You might say to yourself, `I am giving him a good piece of advice,' but your heart knows the truth..." To what a profound extent do men succumb to these sins every day in responding to the powerful call of desire for gain! Scripture reveals the terrible nature of the punishment in this case (Deuteronomy 27:18): "Accursed is he who misleads a blind man on the path."
This is the duty of the just man: When someone requests his advice, he should tell him to do what he himself would do in a similar situation, having no other end, immediate or distant, than the good of the one he is advising. And if it so happens that he sees himself as standing to lose through such advice, if he is in a position to reveal the same to the other, he should do so and if not he should excuse himself and give no advice whatsoever. In any event however, he must not propose anything whose end is not the good of the person seeking advice, unless the latter intends evil, in which case it is certainly a mitzvah to deceive him, as it is said (Psalms 18:27), "And with the crooked be cunning." The episode of Chushai the Archite (11 Samuel 15:32 ff) is a case in point.
The severity of tale-bearing and slander is already known, as is also the profusion of forms that it assumes. It is, moreover, such a great profusion, that our Sages of blessed memory pronounced, in a statement that I have already referred to, (Bava Bathra 165a), " And all of them succumb to the `dust' of slander." They ask (Arachin 15b), "What is the dust of slander?" and answer, "One's saying, `Where is a hearth-fire found? Only in so and so's house,' " or one's praising his neighbor in the presence of the latter's enemies, and the like. Even though such things may appear very insignificant and very far removed from tale-bearing, they are, in truth, part of its "dust."
In fine, the evil inclination has many devices at its command. Any statement that a man makes concerning his neighbor, in his presence or not, which might cause him injury or shame is included in the sin of slander, which is hated and despised by the Presence, and about which it is said (Ibid.),
"If one utters slanderous remarks it is as if he denies the First Cause," and (Psalms 101:5), "One who slanders his friend in secret, him will I destroy. "
Hate and revenge, too, are very difficult for man's spiteful heart to escape, for in view of his being extremely sensitive to insult, and suffering great anguish because of it, revenge, being the only thing which will put him at rest, is sweeter than honey to him. Therefore, if it is within his power to abandon the urging of his nature and to overlook the offense so as not to hate the one who ignited hatred within him, nor to take revenge against him when the opportunity to do so presents itself, nor to hold a grudge against him, but to forget the whole affair and remove it from his heart as if it had never occurred - if he can do this, he is strong and courageous. Such conduct is easy only for the ministering angels among whom the aforementioned traits do not exist, not for "dwellers in houses of clay whose roots are in dust" (Job 4:19). But the King has decreed (in perfectly lucid language, requiring no interpretation) (Leviticus 19:17,18), "Do not hate your brother in your heart ... Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against the children of your nation."
The difference between taking revenge and bearing a grudge is that the first indicates a person's withholding good from one who kept some good from him or injured him in some way, whereas the second denotes a person's interlarding a worthy act towards one who had wronged him with some reminder of that wrong.
The evil inclination advances and inflames the heart and constantly seeks to leave at least some trace or memory of the wrong. If it is not successful in leaving a strong reminder it will attempt to leave a weaker one. For example, it will tell a person, "If you wish to give this man what he did not want to give you when you were in need, at least do not give it to him graciously." Or, "If you do not want to hurt him, at least do not do him a great favor or offer him valuable assistance." Or, "If you want to go so far as to be of great help to him, at least do not provide this help in his presence." Or, "If you have forgiven him, do not renew your acquaintance with him and become his friend; it is enough that you do not show yourself his enemy. And if you want to go so far as to befriend him, at least do not show him as much friendship as of yore."
All such suggestions are among the intrigues of the evil inclination, by which it attempts to ensnare a person's heart. To counteract this the Torah states a general, all-embracing principle (Ibid.): "And love your friend as yourself" - "as yourself," with no difference whatsoever - "as yourself," without distinction, without devices and schemes - literally "as yourself."
As far as oaths are concerned, even though all those who are not of the common run of men guard themselves from taking the name of God in vain, especially in oaths, there are still some small offshoots of this sin which, although not among the most severe transgressions, should nevertheless be avoided by those who wish to be Clean. As has been stated (Shevuoth 36a), "R. Eleazar said, 'No' is an oath and `Yes' is an oath. Rava said, `Only if one said 'No, No'-twice or `Yes, Yes' -- twice.' " And, (Bava Metzia 49a), " `A righteous measure' (Leviticus 19:36) - your `No' should be righteous and your `Yes' should be righteous."
Lying, too, is a terrible sickness that has spread far-reachingly among men. There are various levels of this sin.
There are some people whose profession itself is lying, who go around inventing stark falsehoods in order to promote social intercourse or to be reckoned among the wise and informed. In relation to them it is said (Proverbs 12:22), "The abomination of God is lying lips," and (Isaiah 59:3), "Your lips speak falsehood, your tongues give voice to wrong."
And our Sages of blessed memory have pronounced their judgment (Sotah 42a), "There are four classes of men who are not received into the presence of God." (The class of liars is numbered among the four).
There are other liars close to the first kind in regard to level, although not exactly like them; namely, those who lie within their stories and their statements. That is, it is not their practice to go around inventing stories and manufacturing incidents which never occurred, but, when they give an account of something, they interlard it with falsehoods as their fancy strikes them. They habituate themselves to this practice to the point where it becomes part of their nature. These are the liars whose words it is impossible to believe, as stated by our Sages of blessed memory (Sanhedrin 89b), "This is the punishment of a liar - even when he speaks truth he is not attended to." They have implanted this evil so deeply within themselves that their words cannot leave their lips clean of falsehood. As the Prophet grieves (Jeremiah 9:4), "They have taught their tongues to speak falsehood; they have become weary with wrong."
There are others whose sickness is milder than that of the first two types. The members of this third group are not confirmed in falsehood, but do not take heed to withdraw from it, and speak it when the opportunity presents itself, and very often by way of jest and the like, with no evil intent. The Sage, however, has made it known to us that all of this is contrary to the will of the Creator, blessed be He, and to the attribute of His saints (Proverbs 13:5): "The righteous hate a false thing." And it is in relation to this that we were warned (Exodus 23:7), "Withdraw from a false thing." Note that we do not have, "Guard yourself from falsehood," but "Withdraw from a false thing," this to awaken us to the greatness of the extent to which one must withdraw himself and flee from falsehood. As has been stated (Zechariah 3:13), "The remnant of Israel will not do wrong and will not speak falsehood; and a deceiving tongue will not be found in their mouths." Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Shabbath 55a ), "The seal of the Holy One Blessed be He is truth." Indeed if the truth is what the Holy One Blessed be He selected as His seal, how abominable must its opposite be to Him. The Holy One Blessed be He furnished us with a great exhortation concerning the necessity of abiding by the truth (Zechariah 8:16), "Let one man speak with another in truth; " and (Isaiah 16:5), "And a throne will be established in loving-kindness and He will sit upon it in Truth;" and (Ibid. 63:8), "And He said, `But they are my people, children who do not lie;' " (one is dependent upon the other) and (Zechariah 8:3), "And Jerusalem will be called "The City of Truth" (this to magnify its worth). And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Makkoth 24a), " `And he speaks the truth in his heart' (Psalms 15:2), as R. Safra..." [Rashi explains: "This is the incident concerning R. Safra: he had a certain article to sell, but when someone approached him while he was reciting the Shema, and said to him, `Give me the article for so much and so much money,' he did not answer, being occupied in the recitation of the Shema. The latter, thinking that he did not want to give him the object for that sum, continued, `Give it to me for so much and so much more.' After completing the Shema, he said to him, `Take the article for the sum you originally stipulated, for I had intended to give it to you for that sum.' "] This to show how far one is duty-bound to be truthful. They have forbidden (Bava Metzia 23b), a Scholar to alter his language except for three things.
Truth is one of the pillars upon which the world stands (Avoth 1.18). Speaking falsehood, then, is comparable to removing the foundation of the world; and, conversely, if one is heedful of the truth it is as if he maintains the world's foundation. Our Sages of blessed memory told us (Sanhedrin 97a) of a community which was watchful of truth and in which the Angel of Death was powerless; but because the wife of a certain teacher altered her language, cven though her intentions were good, the Angel of Death was loosed upon it. After she had been driven away because of this, the old serenity returned. There is no need to dwell further upon this because it is dictated by intelligence and borne out by reason.
The aspects of "desecration of the Name" are also numerous and significant, for a person must be extremely jealous of his Master's honor, and subject everything he does to great scrutiny and thought in order that it not give rise to what might possibly be a desecration of the Name of Heaven, God forbid. We have learned (Avoth 4.4), "The sin of desecration of the Name obtains both in the presence and in the absence of intent." And our Sages of blessed memory have said (Yoma 86a), "What constitutes desecration of the Name? Rav said, `If one such as I were to buy meat without paying for it immediately,' and R. Yochanan said, `If one such as I were to walk four ells without Torah and tefillin.' " The idea behind this is that every man, according to the level that he is on and according to the impression that people have of him must engage in thought in order to keep himself from doing anything not befitting a man such as he. To the extent of his importance and wisdom, he should cultivate his Watchfulness in matters of Divine service and deepen his consideration of it. And if he does not do so, the Name of Heaven is desecrated through him, God forbid. For it is to the honor of the Torah that one who learns more of it progresses more, likewise, in righteousness and in refinement of character traits. Any lack in this respect, on the part of one who learns a great deal, contributes to a disparagement of learning itself, which is, God forbid, a desecration of the Name of the Blessed One, who gave us His holy Torah and commanded us to occupy ourselves with it in order to attain our perfection.
The observance of Sabbaths and Festivals is also of especially great significance, for their laws are very numerous. As it is said (Shabbath 12a), "There are many laws in relation to the Sabbath." Even the laws of "resting," Rabbinical ordinances, are essential principles; as it is said (Chagigah 16b), "The principle of `resting' should not be taken lightly, for the prohibition against semichah is an aspect of `resting' and the great men of the generation contended over it." The details of the laws of the Sabbath, according to their divisions are explained in the Halachic writings. They are all equal in respect to our duty concerning them and in respect to the degree of Watchfulness required. The difficult part of Sabbath observance for most people is abstaining from occupation and from discussion of business activities, the prohibition against which is stated in the words of the Prophet (Isaiah 58:13), "And honor it by abstaining from ordering your ways, from fulfilling your desires and from engaging in speech." The rule is that everything which may not be done on the Sabbath may not be striven after or mentioned. It was for these reasons that our Sages of blessed memory forbade a man to survey his property to see what it might require the next day, or to walk to the gates of the province in order to be able to depart on a long journey soon after nightfall, or to say, "i will do such and such tomorrow," or "I will buy such and such wares tomorrow," and the like.
I have thus far spoken of those few mitzvoth which we see people to be most remiss in. What we have said about these should serve us for all the other prohibitions, for there is no prohibition without divisions and particulars, some more severe, some less. One who wishes to be Clean must be clean and pure in all of them. Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 6.12), " `Your teeth are like a flock of sheep' (Canticles 6:6) - just as a sheep is modest in its behavior so were the Jews modest and virtuous in the war with Midian. R. Huna said in the name of R. Acha, `During the war with Midian, not one of them put on the tefillin of the head before the tefillin of the hand. If one of them had done so, Moses would not have praised them and they would not have left the field in peace.' " As stated in Yerushalmi, "One who speaks between Yishtabach and Yotzer is tainted with a transgression and must leave the battle-field because of it."
We see, then, the extent to which analysis and true Cleanliness are necessary in relation to deeds. But just as Cleanliness must reside in deeds, so must it reside in traits. In fact, it is almost more difficult to acquire the second type of Cleanliness than the first, for one's nature is more influential in the sphere of his traits than in that of his deeds, in that one's temperament and character can be a great help or a great hindrance in the formation of his traits. And every struggle against one's nature is a fierce one, as our Sages of blessed memory have stated (Avoth 4.1), "Who is strong? One who conquers his evil inclination."
There are innumerable traits; for as all of a person's worldly actions, so are his traits. It is from them that his actions flow. But just as we discussed those mitzvoth which there was a greater need to consider, because of the greater frequency of lapses in relation to them, so shall we discuss the chief traits in greater detail because of the relative frequency with which they come into play. These are pride, anger, envy, and lust - all evil traits, whose evil is widely recognized and need not be demonstrated. They are evil both in themselves and in their results, for they are all outside the realm of intelligence and wisdom. Each one of them has it within itself to lead a person into severe sins. In relation to pride we are explicitly warned (Deuteronomy 8:14), "And your heart will be proud and you will forget the Lord, your God." Concerning anger our Sages of blessed memory said (Shabbath 1056), "One who becomes angry should be in your eyes as one who serves idols." About envy and lust we were told explicitly (Avoth 4.21), "Envy, lust and honor-seeking remove one from the world." The necessary insight in relation to them is to flee all of them and all that derives from them, for they are all as one, "deviant offshoots of a strange vine" (Jeremiah 2:21). We shall now proceed to discuss them individually.
Pride consists in a person's pluming himself with his self and considering himself worthy of praise. There can be many different reasons behind this. Some deem themselves intelligent; some, handsome; some, honored; some, great; some, wise. In fine, when a man attributes to himself any of the good things of the world, he puts himself in immediate danger of falling into the pit of pride. However, a person's convincing himself of his significance and of his meriting praise leads not to one result only, but to many different results. It is even possible for opposing reactions to stem from similar causes and to be directed to the same end.
One type of pride reflects itself in a person's thinking that since he is deserving of praise and is impressively unique (as he imagines) in the possession of his particular attribute, he should deport himself, too, in a manner that is impressively unique, highly dignified, in walking, sitting, rising, speakingin all of his actions. He will walk only in an unhurried manner, with measured step; he will sit only erect; he will rise only little by little, like a snake; he will not speak with all people, but only with men of eminence; and even with them, he will utter only terse, oracular remarks. And in all of his other actions -- his movements, his manipulations, his eating, his drinking, his dressing, and in all of his ways - he will conduct himself with great pompousness, as if all of his flesh were lead and all of his bones, stone or earth.
Another type of pride manifests itself in a man's thinking that since he is worthy of praise and possessed of many superior qualities he must become the terror of the earth and everyone must tremble before him. He feels that it would be insolent on the part of people to speak with him or to ask anything of him. If they dare to approach him, he will confound them with his voice and drive them into a turmoil with the breath of his lips, with his biting retorts. And his face will continuously fume.
A third type of pride reveals itself in one's thinking that he is already so great and so invested with honor that honor is inseparable from him and that, consequently, he need not pursue it. To impress this upon others, he fashions his deeds after those of humble men and goes to very great lengths to exhibit [Variant: calls attention to his character, exhibiting] unusual and unfathomable humility, his heart all the time swelling within him, as if to say, "I am so exalted and so greatly honored that I no longer have any need for honor and might just as well decline it, for it resides with me in great measure."
Yet another type of pride expresses itself in a person's desiring to be widely renowned for his outstanding qualities and for the uniqueness of his ways, to the point where it is not enough for him to be praised by all the world for the qualities he imagines himself to possess, but he desires to be praised even more for being the humblest of the humble. Such a one prides himself upon his humility and desires honor because he shows himself to flee it. He puts himself beneath those who are far inferior to him, or beneath the derelicts of society, seeking to display thereby the essence of humility. He shuns all imposing titles and refuses all dignities, his heart all the while saying within him, "There is no wiser and humbler man than I in all the land." Those who possess this type of pride, though they give the impression of humility, face no few pitfalls, for without their being aware of it, their pride will be revealed, as a flame escaping from shards. Our Sages of blessed memory have already compared (Bamidbar Rabbah 18.13) a person with this kind of pride to a house full of straw. The straw enters into cracks in the walls, and, after a few days, begins to emerge, so that everyone realizes the house is full of it. Similarly, those men who possess this type of pride will not always be able to conceal their true identity. Their evil intent will show through their deeds and their seeming self-effacement will be recognized as specious humility and deceitful lowliness.
There are others whose pride remains buried in their hearts without receiving expression in deed, but who nurse the thought that they are great sages who know things to their very depths, and that not many can hope to be as wise as they. And so thinking, they pay no heed to the thoughts of others, reasoning that what they cannot comprehend no one can.What is dictated to them by their intelligence is so clear and obvious to them that they cannot even consider any arguments to the contrary, regardless of the stature of those who put them forward. They have no doubts whatsoever as to the correctness of their views.
All of these reactions stem from pride, which sets back sages and stultifies their minds, which perverts the hearts of the highest in wisdom. And even raw students whose eyes have barely opened, are caused by pride to fancy themselves the wisest of the wise. Concerning all forms of pride it is said (Proverbs 16:5), "The proud of heart are the abomination of God." One who wishes to acquire the trait of Cleanliness must cleanse himself of all forms of pride and he must know and understand that pride is blindness itself and that man's reason cannot see its defects and recognize its meanness, for if a man could see and recognize the truth, he would depart from all of these evil, destructive elements and remove himself very far from them. We shall speak further of this with the help of Heaven, when we come to the trait of Humility, which, because of the difficulty of its attainment was placed among the last of the traits in the order formulated by R. Pinchas.
We shall now discuss anger. There is the furious man, about whom it was said (Shabbath 105b), "If one becomes angry, it is as if he serves idols." He is angered by any opposition to his will and becomes so filled with wrath that his heart is no longer with him and his judgment vanishes. A man such as he would destroy the entire world if it were within his power to do so, for he is not in any way directed by reason and is as devoid of sensibility as any predatory beast. About him it was said (Job 18:4), "You who tear your soul in your wrath, shall the earth become desolate because of you T' He can easily comrhit any conceivable sin to which his rage brings him, for he is bound by nothing but his anger and he will go where it leads him.
There is another type, who is far removed from the first in degree of anger. He will not become enraged over every lack of conformity with his will, small or great. But when he reaches the point of anger, he will become greatly enraged and give vent to his wrath. It is he whom our Sages of blessed memory characterized (Avoth 5.11) as "difficult to arouse and difficult to appease." This form of anger, too, is unquestionably evil, for much that is very damaging may proceed from him during his fit of anger and he will not afterwards be able to straighten what he has made crooked.
There is a lesser form of anger in which one is not easily aroused; and even when he is aroused, his anger is restrained and does not cause him to abandon his intelligence, but he still nurses his wrath. One who becomes angry in this manner stands to lose far less than the others, but there is no question that he has not attained to Cleanliness. What is more, he has not even acquired Watchfulness, for as long as anger moves him, he has not removed himself from the classification of "a man of anger."
There is another who is even less inclined to anger than the aforementioned type. It is very difficult to arouse him, and his anger is neither destructive nor all-consuming, but mild. It lasts no more than a minute, the amount of time it takes from the awakening of anger within him until the awakening of his understanding against it. Our Sages of blessed memory characterized him (Ibid.) as "difficult to arouse and easy to appease." His is certainly a goodly portion, for a person's nature moves him to anger and if he masters his anger to the extent that it does not flare strongly and overpower him even during the period of its presence and so that even the small amount of anger that he feels does not linger with him, but passes and departs, he is certainly deserving of praise. Our Sages have said (Chullin 89a), "'He suspends the earth on nothingness' (Job 26:7) - the world endures only because of him who bridles his mouth during a quarrel." The reference is to a situation in which a person has already been awakened to anger, but, mastering his nature, bridles his mouth.
The attribute of Hillel the Elder, however, transcends all of the others, for he took offense at nothing and felt not even a stirring of anger. Such a man is absolutely Clean of anger. Our Sages of blessed memory warned against anger even for the sake of a mitzvah, even in a teacher's relationship with his student and in a father's with his son. This is not to say that the offenders should not be reprimanded - they certainly should be; but without anger, with no other purpose than their being set on the right path. Any anger shown to them should be anger of the face and not anger of the heart. Solomon said (Ecclesiastes 7:9), "Do not be hasty-spirited to become angry." And it is stated (Job 5:2), "For the fool is killed by anger." And our Sages of blessed memory said (Eruvin 65b), "A man is recognized in three ways - through his goblet, through his pocket and through his anger."
Envy, too, is nothing but want of reason and foolishness, for the one who envies gains nothing for himself and deprives the one he envies of nothing. He only loses thereby, as is indicated in the verse that I mentioned (Job 5:2), "Envy kills the fool." There are those who are so foolish that if they perceive their neighbor to possess a certain good, they brood and worry and suffer to the point that their neighbor's good prevents them from enjoying their own. As the Sage said (Proverbs 14:30), "Envy is the decay of the bones." There are others who, though not caused much suffering and pain by envy, still experience some hurt. They will at least feel some sinking of spirit upon seeing one rise to a higher level if he is not one of their dearest and closest friends, more so if he is not especially loved by them, and even more so if he is a stranger from a different land. They might say things which would seem to reflect their happiness and thankfulness over his good fortune, but their hearts will be faint within them. This is a very common reaction with most people, for though they may not be characterized by envy, they are still not entirely Clean of it. They are especially affected if one who plies the same trade as they prospers in it for "Every craftsman hates his fellow" (Bereshith Rabbah 19.6), especially if the latter is more successful than he. They will not acknow. ledge and understand the fact that "A man cannot touch even a hair's-breadth of what is set aside for his neighbor" (Yoma 386). If they recognized that everything proceeds from God in accordance with His wondrous judgment and unfathomable wisdom, they would have no reason whatso. ever to suffer over their neighbor's good. This is what the Prophet foretells about the time to come, that the Holy One Blessed be He will eradicate this ugly trait from our hearts so that Israel's good will be complete. At that time no one will feel pain over another's good and he who is successful will not be compelled to conceal himself and what relates to him for fear of being envied. As it is written (Isaiah 11:13), "And the envy of Ephraim will depart and the oppressors of Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not envy Judah ..." This is the kind of peace and serenity experienced by the ministering angels, who all rejoice in their service, each in his place, none envying the other; for seeing the truth to its very depths, they rejoice over the good that they possess and are happy in their portions.
The sister of envy is desire and lust, which wearies a man's heart until the day of his death, as stated by our Sages of blessed memory (Koheleth Rabbah 1.34), "A man does not die with half of his desire fulfilled." There are two main branches of desire, desire for wealth and desire for honor, each as evil as the other and each bringing about many evil consequences.
It is the desire for wealth which binds a man with worldly bonds and places the thongs of labor and preoccupation upon his arms, as it is written (Ecclesiastes 5:9), "The lover of silver will not be satiated with silver." It is this desire which removes one from Divine service, for many prayers are lost and many mitzvoth forgotten because of excessive preoccupation and the pursuit of a wealth of stores. This is especially true in relation to Torah study, concerning which our Sages of blessed memory have said (Eruvin 55a), " `It is not across the seas' (Deuteronomy 30:13) - it does not reside with those who cross the seas for business," and (Avoth 2.5), "Not all who engage in business become wise." The quest for wealth exposes one to many dangers and weakens him with much worrying even after he has acquired a great deal. We also learned (Ibid.), "He who multiplies belongings multiplies worries." And it is this quest which often causes one to trespass against the laws of the Torah and even against the natural laws of reason.
The desire for honor is even greater than the desire for wealth, for it is possible for a person to overcome his inclination for wealth and the other pleasures and still be pressed by the desire for honor, being unable to tolerate being, and seeing himself beneath his friends.
Many were caught and destroyed by the desire for honor. Jeroboam ben Nevat was barred from the World to Come only as a result of his desire for honor. As was stated by our Sages of blessed memory (Sanhedrin 102a), "The Holy One Blessed be He seized his garment and said to him, `Repent, and you and I and the son of Jesse will promenade in the Garden of Eden.' Jeroboam asked, `Who will go first?' The Holy One Blessed be He answered, `The son of Jesse:' and Jeroboam said, `If so, I refuse.' " What, if not the desire for honor, brought about the destruction of Korach and his entire congregation? As Scripture explicitly states (Numbers 16:10), "And would you also seek the priesthood? " Our Sages of blessed memory have told us (Bamidbar Rabbah 18.1) that his entire rebellion stemmed from his seeing Elizaphan ben Uziel as prince and desiring to be prince in his place. This same desire, according to our Sages of blessed memory (Zohar to Numbers 13:3), was responsible for the spies' speaking ill of the land, thus bringing about their death and the death of the entire generation. They feared a diminution of their honor in the possibility that after entry into the land they would no longer be princes of Israel and others would be appointed in their place. What, if not a concern for his honor caused Saul to begin to seek an opportunity to kill David? As it is written (1 Samuel 18:7ff), "And the exultant women answered and said, 'Saul has slain ...' and Saul eyed David from that day forward." What, if not concern for his honor, caused Joab to kill Amasa? (For David had said to Amasa (11 Samuel 19:14), "... if you will not always be my general...")
In fine, the desire for honor tugs at a person's heart more than any of the other longings and desires in the world. If not for concern over his honor, a person would be content to eat whatever was at hand, to clothe himself with whatever would cover his nakedness, and to dwell in a house which would afford him protection from the elements. He would obtain his livelihood with little effort and would feel no need to exert himself to become rich. But so as not to see himself as lower and lesser than his friends, he places a yoke upon his neck, and there is no end to all his labors. It is with this in mind that our Teachers of blessed memory said (Avoth 4.20), "Envy, lust and honor-seeking remove a person from the world," and warned us (Ibid. 6.4), "Do not seek greatness or desire honor." How many starve themselves and stoop to feeding themselves from charity so as not to engage in an occupation which they feel is lacking in respectability, for fear of a diminution of their honor? Is there anything sillier? They prefer to dwell in idleness, which leads to stagnation, lewdness and theft, and to all of the major sins in order not to lower themselves and detract from the honor which they imagine themselves to possess. Our Sages of blessed memory, who constantly exhorted us to follow the path of truth and conducted us upon it, said (Avoth 1.9), "Love work and hate position," and (Pesachim 113a), "Flay a carcass in the marketplace and do not say, `I am an important person; I am a priest,' " and (Bava Bathra 110a), "A man should rather do work that is strange to him than have need of others."
In fine, the desire for honor is one of man's greatest stumbling blocks. He cannot be a faithful servant to his Master as long as he is concerned with his own honor; for whatever the case, his foolishness will lead him to detract from the honor of Heaven. As King David, may Peace be upon him, said (II Samuel 6:22), "I will become even lesser than this; I will become low in my eyes." The only true honor is true knowledge of the Torah. In the words of our Sages of blessed memory (Avoth 6.3), "There is no honor but Torah, as it is said (Proverbs 3:35), `The wise will inherit honor.' " Anything else is seeming, delusive honor, completely meaningless and worthless. One who would be Clean should cleanse himself of the desire for honor and purify himself of it; he will then be successful.
I have discussed up to this point many particulars of Cleanliness. What has been said should serve as a model for all of the other mitzvoth and traits. "The wise man man will hear and add to his wisdom and the man of understanding will acquire stratagems " (Proverbs 1:5).
I cannot deny that the acquisition of Cleanliness requires a little effort, but I still maintain that it does not entail so much effort as appearances would lead one to believe. It is more difficult in the thinking than in the doing. If one takes it into his heart and resolutely determines to be among the possessors of this good trait, then, with a little habituation, he will easily acquire it - far more easily than he could have imagined. This is borne out by experience.